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Miami Dolphins’2018 Off-Season Road Map

Travis Wingfield

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“It feels right for us right now,” Gase said. “I feel like we’re in a good place. It feels like we’ve got the type of people all working in the same direction and working toward the same goal.”

An exercise as old as time, Adam Gase isn’t reading the press clippings about the third iteration of his Miami Dolphins. After two years in charge and an equal number of victories and defeats (16), the 2018 season figures to be Gase’s signature work.

“It’s never going to be the way we really want it, the way we keep talking about it [being] until guys take control of this thing. There are a lot of things I can do to make things the way we need, but at the end of this [it’s] on player accountability,” Gase said. “We need our leaders to step up. We need them to be vocal. We need them to actually do their part in the leadership role.”

That comment from the 2017 end-of-season press conference signaled signs of change in Miami. Henceforth, the Dolphins devised an off-season plan that would fly in the face of public approval.

Phase 1: Jettison players that don’t prioritize winning
Phase 2: Acquire players to reinforce coach’s message
Phase 3: Get much, much faster and athletic
Phase 4: Develop continuity within our own core principals

What are those core principles? That will be revealed later, but all good stories start at the beginning.

Phase 1: The Exodus

It began on Halloween 2017. Less than a year removed from a breakout 1,200-yard rushing performance, disgruntled running back Jay Ajayi was sent packing. The trade happened on a Tuesday, but Gase was already pouring the dirt over Ajayi’s grave Friday after a 40 point loss in Baltimore.

“We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time,” Gase said. “How about take the 4 or 5 yards that we’re going to get? 

As the Dolphins limped to a 6-10 record, trading a pro-bowl running back was just the beginning.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry and his agent somehow instituted a reverse correlation in regards to his contract. Due to hit the market in March, a wide-out with a smaller yards-per-catch figure than a handful of tight ends and running backs was asking to be paid like a premiere receiver.

“Offensively, it’s a joke,” Gase said. “We’ve got too many guys that don’t want to take it home with them. Until our best players actually put forth some effort, it’ll be [expletive].”

Similarly, as it were with Ajayi, the writing was on the wall for Landry – he wasn’t coming back. After all, Gase’s offenses have excelled when there was a democratic ball distribution operation opposed to force-feeding a limited slot guy.

The biggest shoe was still yet to drop. That came when the Dolphins moved on from all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. There aren’t many disparaging remarks one can make about Suh’s on-field production – he was a stellar player in Miami.

Each team is given a finite amount of resources to construct its ideal team. Pennies are gold in this business and the decision to axe one proven player to free up cash for unknowns faced its fair share of criticism.

At this point national pundits were in lockstep on the utter disaster that has become a once proud organization. Despite a porous 6-10 mark and a clear roadmap to this eventual outcome, folks weren’t buying it.

Phase 2: Reinforcements

The decision to retain and prop-up quarterback Ryan Tannehill was made months ago. Watching 16 weeks of Jay Cutler, Matt Moore and David Fales will provide a sense of security in a previously proven quarterback.

If you’re not on the Tannehill train, this is where you exit. There’s a healthy contingency of detractors believing anything this team does is irrelevant because of current quarterback situation.

Oct 23, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This column wasn’t written to convince you that Tannehill is a franchise quarterback; this blog has already accomplished that feat. Football minds far smarter than the author, or anyone reading this piece, have made that declaration.

Getting further into the weeds than I intended, no one is mistaking Tannehill for a top-shelf quarterback. Those players come along once for some teams, twice for the lucky and never for the damned.

The challenge Gase and the Dolphins’ brass would face was highlighting the strengths of the seventh-year quarterback. What does Ryan Tannehill do well?

– Accurate in the short/intermediate
– Lethal when afforded adequate time to throw the football
– Elite on play-action and throwing from outside of the pocket

A pair of obvious needs protrude from that list: 1.) Better offensive line play and, 2.) Quick, urgent options in the passing game.

The receiver portion would be a breeze – they grow on trees. Quality offensive line play is at an all-time low in the league and the Dolphins needed to augment 40% of the group. With Laremy Tunsil and Jesse Davis penciled in as quality pass-pro specialists at left tackle and right guard, the Dolphins decided to exercise the fifth-year option on PFF’s #4 pass protecting offensive tackle in Ja’Wuan James.

Next came free-agent Josh Sitton. A veteran with a polished resume and penchant for keeping his quarterback’s clean, Sitton is just what the doctor ordered.

Circle back to Gase’s public roasting of his own players, Mike Pouncey’s perpetual presence in the training room brought about an opportunity to complete this task. Pouncey, who played 16 games for the first time in his career since 2012, was deemed expendable because of his delicate practice availability.

Stepping in is Dan Kilgore who, with the 49ers, excelled in pass protection aside from the games quarterbacked by C.J. Beathard. The entire San Francisco line saw a regression from the mean when the rookie QB took over, and returned back to normalcy when Jimmy Garappolo took the reins.

On the outside, Danny Amendola made a career of fetching short passes from arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play, Tom Brady. Amendola’s playoff resume and third down prowess in an offense predicated on the short passing attack aids Miami in checking the box of priority number two of this phase.

The other addition at the position, as well as the offense in general, fits into phase three.

Phase 3: Speed Kills

Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Landry and Julius Thomas – names not synonymous with speed. A lack of explosion on offense and a general futility against the opposition’s offensive playmakers indicated the need for a shot in the arm.

Enter Albert Wilson, Mike Gesicki, Jerome Baker and Kalen Ballage.

Wilson is a Landry clone as far as potential production (broke just one fewer tackle than Landry on 99 fewer pass targets). Under the hood, however, Wilson has a much more impressive zero-to-sixty engine.

The elevation of Jakeem Grant from punt returner and part-time gimmick option to full-fledged threat adds to the Dolphins’ element of speed. Sprinkle in Kenny Stills and the Dolphins have a trio of receivers that can blaze sub-4.4 on the stop watch.

A rookie tripod, Gesicki, Baker and Ballage, all measured near the top of list of athletic dynamos at Indianapolis’s combine.

The offense has lacked a critical element in the Adam Gase scheme, the tight end. Gesicki is THE quintessential move piece to serve as the Y-isolation cog in Gase’s offense.

Baker rejoins former Buckeye teammate, Raekwon McMillan, in the middle of a rejuvenated defense. Together, they wreak havoc as well-crafted blitzers and finding their spots in zone and man coverage.

Ballage serves as a plug-and-play option for the departed Damien Williams. A tall, slashing style runner with the ability to flex out and play slot makes the Arizona State product the ideal third-down back – his 4.46 forty-time doesn’t hurt either.

Phase 4: Building an Identity

Keep the quarterback upright, win one-on-one match-ups quickly and offer ultimate game-planning flexibility – the offense has its desired personality in spades. One that can attack the opponent in an entirely different way than the week prior.

A similar shift occurred on the defense. A first round draft pick was spent to bolster a secondary full of names on the come-up. Minkah Fitzpatrick allows the Miami defense to mirror the offense with flexibility. A deep safety and a big nickel, his presence allows pro-bowler Reshad Jones to ball hawk with more freedom.

Dec 11, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones (20) reacts during a game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The pass rush was bolstered in an off-season trade that brought Robert Quinn to Miami. William Hayes was re-signed and the Dolphins are now six deep on the edge with passable bodies.

The development of young talent from three consecutive draft classes will be paramount. Kenyan Drake, Laremy Tunsil, Jakeem Grant, Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley, Fitzpatrick, Gesicki, Baker and Ballage provide Miami with a rousing young core.

So now the process is complete, the roster is nearly set with 89 names ready to compete in August camp – but what is the plan? What is this team’s identity? First, let’s start with the off-season checklist:

Improve pass protection –

In: Josh Sitton, Dan Kilgore

Out: Ted Larsen, Mike Pouncey

Shift from a primary target to ball distribution offense –

In: Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Mike Gesicki, inclusion of Jakeem Grant

Out: Jarvis Landry, Julius Thomas

Improve red zone and third down defense –

In: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Raekwon McMillan, Robert Quinn, Jerome Baker,

Out: Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Timmons

At the top of the column, I mentioned core principles we can expect to be instituted by the 2018 Miami Dolphins. Gase has come from a long line of successful coaches, primarily on the offensive side of the football. Picking up things along the way from each, his ideal offense would have two traits:

1.) No huddle/tempo-based attack
2.) Flexibility to attack defenses in a variety of ways

Tempo/No-huddle –

Ryan Tannehill is entering his third season in Gase’s offense – the lengthiest stay in any one offense during his seven-year career. Dan Kilgore is healthy and capable of practicing three days a week opposed to the hermetically sealed Mike Pouncey being freed from his bubble just once on Sundays.

Danny Amendola has forgotten more football than most people will even know. Albert Wilson was lauded in Kansas City for his ability to grasp Andy Reid’s complex, nuanced scheme. Plug in the tape of Mike Gesicki at Penn State and you will see the routes he’s going to run in this offense.

Frank Gore was acquired to make the transition to a hurry-up attack more seamless. Paired with third-year back Kenyan Drake (who led the NFL in rushing the final five weeks of the season) the Dolphins are flush with interchangeable backs to keep one another fresh.

The final point is best stated in the next core principle.

Practice How We Intend to Play –

Former offensive line coach and running game coordinator Chris Foerster’s decision making is fair to question. His idea that players ought to be cross trained along the offensive line is great in theory, but it has been the focal point for tantamount breakdowns in protection over the years.

Dec 17, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis (77) at the line of scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It contradicts the idea of competition, but the Dolphins have already anointed the starting five offensive linemen. Finding cohesion and rhythm will be a key for this attack, hence getting the front-five as many reps together as possible.

Furthermore, the Sitton, Amendola and Gore acquisitions put a literal captain and coach into each meeting room at the Dolphins’ facility in Davie. With those three, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, assignments will be communicated and supervised until they’re perfected.

The proof is already in the OTA-pudding as the Dolphins have been running up-tempo, fast-paced practices in May.

You play how you practice.

Defensive Scheme Changes –

Ranking dead last in third-and-long defense, and 30thin red-zone defense, the Dolphins needed to scrap an antiquated scheme and get with the times. Operating with almost no hint of the dime defense, and instead sticking with linebackers to cover athletic tight ends and backs, Matt Burke has one black mark on his resume.

But he can quickly quell those disparaging viewpoints by implementing the new talent on this defense. Fitzpatrick and the newly re-signed Bobby McCain give him flexibility at the slot, safety and perimeter positions. Removing Kiko Alonso from the equation and dropping an accomplished defensive back onto the field should pay immediate dividends.

The Eagles made a miraculous run to the city’s first Lombardi Trophy in 2017. An array of pass rushers that consistently pressure quarterbacks with a four-man rush, at any point of the game, was the key for that championship defense.

Miami is hoping to emulate that plan with veterans Cam Wake, Robert Quinn and Andre Branch. The lynchpin is second-year pro Charles Harris who flashed as a rookie, but was often a fraction of a second late getting to the quarterback.

Will all of this work? That remains to be seen and it’s why they play the games.

For it to work, the offense needs to click rather quickly. The schedule is advantageous at the beginning of the season with four home games in the sweltering South Florida Heat prior to Halloween. Operating an effective, efficient no-huddle scheme will put the visitor in a precarious position.

For it to work Tannehill has to stay healthy. The options behind him are an unattractive dearth of backups and journeymen.

For it to work the running game needs to find success. This team isn’t equipped to line up and run it downhill, but it can certainly take advantage favorable numbers the defense shows in the box. If the passing game works, the running game will work.

This Miami Dolphins team will pass to set up the run.

For it to work on defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick needs to be everything he’s portrayed as.

For it to work, Raekwon McMillan needs to be everything he’s portrayed as.

For it to work, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Cordrea Tankersley, Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor need to prove their flashes are a sign of things to come, not a fluky occurrence.

Where We Are Now –

The blueprint to operate a controlled passing game at an urgent pace has been laid forth. Complementing the offense is a faster defense with reinforcements added at all three levels. Depth in the secondary and on the line will encourage rotation and implementation of new schemes.

The concern is the process of acclimating so many new pieces. The no-huddle was scrapped before for its complexities derailed its overall effectiveness.

If the pieces don’t gel quickly, if the injury bug hits one or two key areas, it could all blow up.

Regardless of the results, the process all adds up. For the first time in a while, Miami has revealed a vision. Every move made coincides with that vision. It makes sense.

Will the vision come to fruition? September is right around the corner.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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